Youth and adults from Peoria County worked together on a unique community service project that they and others will watch grow for many years and will benefit generations to come. Thanks to a 4-H Green Communities Tree Program, 4-H members, parents, volunteers, Extension Master Gardeners, and staff from University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, Peoria County Soil and Water Conservation District, and Peoria Park District planted 25 oak trees at Sommer Farm located on the north edge of Peoria.
Dressed in rain boots and gloves, carrying shovels and trowels, twenty six people arrived at Sommer Farm on April 9 to plant the oak tree savanna. The savanna will bring new life to oak-hickory forests currently under threat in Illinois. The trees were planted in an open patch of ground surrounded by prairie grass & woods. “A design was created to allow the area to become a grove that will serve the needs of summer day camp participants and also serve as a wedding venue as the trees mature,” stated Mike Miller, Peoria Park District Sommer Farm Manager.
“Oak savannas are being overtaken by invasive species, as well as more shade-tolerant trees, such as maples,” says Curt Sinclair, U of I Extension 4-H specialist. “Illinois 4-H is primed to take action to increase the number of oak trees in the state.”
This oak savanna was made possible by the 4-H Green Communities Tree Program which focuses on tackling global issues at a local level.
U of I Extension partnered with the Association of Illinois Soil & Water Conservation Districts (AISWCD) to bring this project to life. Peoria County was just one of the 31 counties participating in this statewide program, which planted a total of 775 trees across the state.
4-H alumni and parent, Andrew Monkemeyer shared why he participated and why he thought it was important to be involved. "Being taught as a 4-H member growing up, we were shown how important it is to serve our community. I want to pass these values to my children as well. My daughter Mabel and I had a wonderful time being able to get outside on a beautiful Saturday morning and serve Peoria County through planting trees. Getting to know other 4-H members and families as well made it a fantastic experience for my family!"
This was a wonderful community collaboration that resulted in beautiful oak savanna that will benefit future generations for many years to come.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Judy Schmidt provides leadership to 4-H metro programming in Peoria County. Schmidt joined Extension in 2001, working as a Youth Development Educator at the East Peoria Center and joined the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell unit in 2011. Her work focuses on 4-H youth development programming in the local metropolitan area, specifically leading positive youth development initiatives for after-school programs, community groups, 4-H clubs and other youth-serving organizations. Her areas of expertise include positive youth development principles, youth leadership, and work with teens as teachers.
Schmidt attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for her bachelor's degree in psychology and also for her master's degrees in Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy. She is a certified facilitator of the Matrixx System/Real Colors program by the National Curriculum and Training Institute.
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